About three weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow Ghanaian historian. We agreed very quickly that nothing interesting or fascinating and helpful to Ghanaians has happened since President Akufo-Addo assumed office in early January, and that therefore, it was too early to have anything substantial to analyse or chew over which would have long term relevance.
We also agreed that whatever is happening right now which has captured the headlines and media discussions may very well be early indicators of the substance we have to expect when the government has matured and is surefooted about the new directions it desires to take us to.
At the moment, what is happening include crude Rambo-style vehicle seizures, untidy removal of chief executives of public institutions and the blatant amendments of laws to endow the President with even more powers to act in our name, as for example, the unnecessary changes to the local government act which gave new powers to the President to enable him to control the outcomes of the Council of State elections held yesterday. Yes, ministers have been nominated and the majority sworn in to begin lawful work, but we still seem to be far away from some policies which would have effect and make us feel that real change has occurred since the election in December.
It is true that the President at the weekend announced his beloved free Senior High School (SHS) education policy, but the academic year starts in September so we are yet to feel the impact of this announcement. The further reports in the name of Senior Minister Mr Osafo-Marfo that the free education policy would be partially funded with the oil heritage fund was the only solid add-on to the earlier presidential announcement. We know, however, that apart from the legal hurdles which must be overcome for this to be possible, the fund now has a little under $200 million available, which works out to about a tenth of the $2 billion needed annually to fund this abiding 2008 promise by our President.
The car seizing charade currently going on apace has all the ingredients of a terrible Kumawood movie. It is undisguised officialised brigandage in the name of securing and protecting public property by people who have neither the training, constitutional standing, or the temperament to do such things, even if one agrees that this is a worthwhile pursuit by any democratic government worth its mandate. Stealing public property has not ceased to be a crime, and one would have wished the work of retrieval would have been done by the police, using their own intelligence sources. Of course, I do not believe any vehicle has been stolen or misplaced.
As I write, there is no official published list of what exactly is being looked for. That explains the embarrassing episode of the seizure and return of a car belonging to the wife of Mr Yaw Boateng Gyan, former national organiser of the opposition National Democratic Congress and a person who held no official position in the previous government. As a Takoradi businessman and owner of a premier league club in this country, I was not in the least worried about his ability to own anything. The earlier statement from the chief of staff officialised this blatant brigandage, but does not excuse it.
I have had cause to compare the Invisible Forces to the President’s Own Guard Regiment of the 1st Republic in an earlier epistle. These forces, however, go beyond providing dedicated personal security to our elected President, and have assumed vigilante duties regarding personalised notions of public property and its security. They have even been filmed assaulting senior police officers in the hallowed seat of government, the Flagstaff House. They have thus become a dangerous combination of guards, vigilantes and stormtroopers. It is not a worthwhile legacy to seek to acquire because we know how the Nkrumah regime ended.
The other thing happening is the replacement of public officials with new appointees in an acting position. I am hearing that one day alone two weeks ago, 85 such dismissal letters were dispatched. This smells suspiciously like the Apollo 568 policy of the Busia regime in 1970 during the second Republic. JW Abruquah was dismissed as Headmaster of Mfantsipim School by a letter sent to Cape Coast by helicopter from the Office of the Prime Minister.
That earlier policy turned out to be a job creation strategy for Progress Party faithful who had not tasted public office and its attractions since 1951 when the Nkrumah regime began in our politics. The celebrated EK Sallah case highlighted this episode in our history which was quoted lavishly by the then Colonel Acheampong when he overthrew Dr Busia two years later.
But even more seriously, it painted the Busia regime as made up of ordinary, workaday politicians who had no regard for the rule of law and democracy; it also destroyed the image of the government then as one of toleration and welcoming of divergent views. The phrase ‘’inward-looking’ was made in Parliament by Victor Owusu in a violent parliamentary debate on the ramifications of this single action by the government, dismissing other Ghanaians from public office without reason. The Opposition in Parliament, led by the valiant stalwarts at the time comprising Dr Godfried Agama, Dr Obed Asamoah and Mr Sam Okudzeto, made a laughing-stock of the Busia government.
I agree that we live in different times, and the repetition of history is not an exact lineal event, but is it necessary to create jobs by depriving others of their jobs when no court has found them unfit or incompetent to do their work? The comprehensive victory of this government should warn all of us that anything could happen, because we live in perpetually-fluid times. These are the kinds of things voters remember at the end of your tenure when you are seeking a renewal.
We need new ways of doing necessary things. We need new impetus to political action rather than the supremely unsatisfactory method of settling scores which are ultimately meaningless to the unschooled, unhoused, unfed, sick and jobless among us. We must feel the positive, competent change promised, and feel and see it soon.